Did you know that the pain and discomforts associated with peripheral neuropathy can be alleviated by making changes in your diet?
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition caused by damage to your peripheral nervous system. Your peripheral nervous system is responsible for sending information from your brain to the rest of your body through your spinal cord. It can be caused one of several factors, including diabetes, vitamin B deficiencies, traumatic injuries like a fall, generalized infections, problems with your metabolism, and exposure to toxins, and others.
The signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are different for different people. In general, there are three types of symptoms related to peripheral neuropathy depending on the nerves damaged: motor nerve damage, sensory nerve damage, and autonomic nerve damage.
Motor nerve damage is characterized by a lack of coordination, partial paralysis, and muscle weakness or shrinking, among others.
Sensory nerve damage may be experienced as numbness or pricking in your hands and feet, sharp or throbbing pain, sensitivity to touch, or lack of ability to detect changes in temperature.
Autonomic nerve damage can result in symptoms like excess sweating, gastrointestinal symptoms, and blood pressure irregularities.
Can Peripheral Neuropathy Be Treated with Diet?
The treatment for peripheral neuropathy will depend on the cause. Your doctor may recommend that you take medicine like gabapentin or pregabalin, in addition to making lifestyle changes.
Smoking and excessive alcohol can worsen peripheral neuropathy, as can lack of exercise. You can boost nerve health with diet by eating foods rich in B and E vitamins, which are essential for nerve health. These include:
- Low-fat dairy
- Fortified cereals
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruits and vegetables like avocado, broccoli, bananas, and leafy greens
Certain dietary patterns can also negatively affect nerve health.
Chronically high blood sugar can cause nerve damage. In fact, uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, which is characterized by a lack of control of blood sugar, is one of the most common causes of nerve damage.
High-glycemic index foods are those that raise your blood sugar quickly and significantly. After a while of eating lots of high-glycemic index foods, our cells have trouble processing the glucose (energy) they provide. The circulating glucose can hurt our nerves.
In addition, foods that are high in saturated fat can cause inflammation. Chronic inflammation can increase your risk of nerve damage.
Below is a list of foods that you should avoid if you have peripheral neuropathy.
Remember, you should always check with your doctor and registered dietician before making significant changes in your diet, since the cause of peripheral neuropathy may be different for everyone.
Avoid These Foods If You Have Peripheral Neuropathy
- Refined grains
These include white rice, white bread, instant rice, and low-fiber cereal, among others. Instead, you can eat oats, barley, brown rice, whole wheat bread, quinoa, and popcorn; these have good energy, but they don’t cause your glycemic index to spike like refined grains do.
- Processed snack foods
Some of the most common processed snack foods include potato chips, pretzels, crackers, bagged snacks, sweet pastries, and others.
If you feel like eating a snack, choose whole grain options, veggie sticks, or a fruit salad.
- Foods with added sugar
Soft drinks, candy, sugary cereals, doughnuts, and frozen desserts contain tons of added sugar. Even if they are sweetened with honey or maple syrup, these foods still raise your glycemic index significantly.
- Saturated fat
Some of the main sourced of saturated fat in our diet include full-fat dairy products, fast foods, and dark meat. We can avoid saturated fat by choosing white meat options, choosing skim dairy, and avoiding fried foods.
Peripheral neuropathy requires close monitoring by your doctor. Depending on the cause, there will be different treatments for peripheral neuropathy. One of the lifestyle changes you can make to prevent more damage caused by peripheral neuropathy is improving your diet. Choosing plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoiding processed foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar, and consuming foods that are high in vitamins B and E are all choices that not only support nerve health, but also overall health.